The Need

  • Nearly 1 billion people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation.[1]
  • Half of the world’s malnutrition traces back to diseases caused by inadequate water and sanitation.[2]
  • Water and sanitation-related diseases collectively account for 80% of sickness in developing countries.[3]
  • These diseases annually kill more children—2.2 million—than AIDS, malaria and combined.[4]
  • The average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk for water is 6 kilometers.[5]
  • Half the schools in the world lack water and sanitation.[6]
  • The economic benefits of water and sanitation projects range from $3 to $34 for every dollar spent depending on the location[7]

Water sustains life and human development. Sanitation ensures that water supplies remain safe from fecal waste. Hygiene provides the education and behavior needed for handwashing and other activities to prevent the spread of disease.  But all of these are at risk. But safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are at risk worldwide. Many factors are responsible. To mention but a few: poverty, governmental indifference, increased and unsustainable agricultural and industrial use of water, deforestation and land-degradation that seriously change the water cycle, over-consumption and waste, pollution and population growth.

As we enter this time of Lent, one question for us is: How does Christ’s life, death, and resurrection require us to respond to those who drink the cup of suffering every day?


[1] “Progress on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation,” UNICEF, WHO Joint Monitoring Program, 2008. http://documents.wssinfo.org/download?id_document=1279

[2] Safer Water, Better Health, World Health Organization, 2008, Page 7 http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241596435_eng.pdf

[3]http://www.un.org/news/Press/docs/2003/sgsm8707.doc.htm

[4] Annual deaths of children 0-14 from diseases related to inadequate water supply, sanitation, hygiene: 2,241,000. Source: Safer Water, Better Health, WHO, 2008

[5] Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council

[6] Unicef

[7] Stockholm International Water Institute and World Health Organization